World Press Photo: About powerful images and their subjects

Mr Pete Muller's talk on violence and traditional notions of masculinity sparked a spirited discussion at the World Press Photo 2015 exhibition yesterday.
Mr Pete Muller's talk on violence and traditional notions of masculinity sparked a spirited discussion at the World Press Photo 2015 exhibition yesterday.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Photographers share stories on masculinity and violence, labour issues and daily life

Drawing a relationship between violence and traditional notions of masculinity, American photographer and researcher Pete Muller sparked a spirited discussion yesterday at the World Press Photo 2015 exhibition.

While documenting soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has experienced two decades of conflict and civil war, he observed how difficulty in providing for their families, for instance, has pushed many to violence in order to reclaim their masculinity.

"Masculinity doesn't allow men to be emotionally literate... everything is pushed out as anger," said Mr Muller.

Participants chipped in with questions about gender dynamics in Africa, such as whether sexual orientation has a bearing on how these patterns of violence play out, which is an issue that Mr Muller hopes to explore in the future.

Asked if the men in the photographs would have been as receptive if they had been taken by a woman, Mr Muller said he had his doubts, as the military is a very masculine environment.


  • Tours and talks

    JAN 29 - FEB 21

    • National Museum of Singapore,The Concourse (Level 1) and The Canyon (Basement 1) Address: 93, Stamford Road, Singapore 178897

    • Open daily, 10am-7pm

    • Free admission

    Guided tours

    • Every Saturday and Sunday, 11am and 2pm (Limited to 20 people for each session, registration on site)

    Talks by ST photojournalists

    Admission is free but pre-registration is required

    Saturday, Feb 6, 11am:

    • Shooting Singapore by Desmond Lim

    • Sea, Air And Land by Alphonsus Chern

    Sunday, Feb 14, 11am:

    • Behind The Scenes Of Disaster Reportage by Kevin Lim

    • Evolution Of Newspaper Photographers by Neo Xiaobin

    To register and for more details, go to tags/st-world-press-photo

Bangladeshi documentary photographer Sarker Protick, who won second prize in the Daily Life category at the World Press Photo exhibition, spoke about the intricacies of working on long-term storytelling projects - referring to his series of portraits of his grandparents in Dhaka, which spanned four years.

He was joined by Singaporean photographer Sim Chi Yin, who discussed her multimedia projects on labour issues and migrant rights, including a series of images that detailed the dangers faced by divers in illegal offshore tin-mining operations in Indonesia. Armed with large plastic suction tubes, they dive blind into the sea, dredging up sand from the seabed that would later be washed down for tin.

"Demand for tin comes from its use in mobile phones and other electronics - in a way, we are all complicit," said Ms Sim.

The World Press Photo 2015 exhibition, sponsored by Canon, is being presented by The Straits Times (ST) for the second year running. It is held at the National Museum of Singapore, under the National Heritage Board, which is the event's venue partner.

Mr Calvin Chow, 23, a second- year Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student, was particularly struck by Ms Sim's talk, during which she screened an excerpt of Dying To Breathe, her documentary on the life of former gold miner He Quangui and his struggles with silicosis - a lung disease associated with the work miners do.

"It was a very moving and immersive experience," he said.

The exhibition features 145 winning images from the World Press Photo 2015 contest, as well as 13 of ST's best photojournalistic works from last year. ST photojournalists Alphonsus Chern, Desmond Lim, Kevin Lim and Neo Xiaobin will speak on Feb 6 and Feb 14.

The speakers are sponsored by political foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, Newsplex Asia, NTU and Singapore Press Club. Other partners include logistics company Famous Air & Sea Services, caterer Purple Sage, public relations firm Weber Shandwick and printing firm Photogenie.

Visitors stand a chance to win a one-night stay for two at The South Beach, the event's official hotel. Details are at http://www.straitstimes. com/tags/st-world-press-photo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'About powerful images and their subjects'. Print Edition | Subscribe